Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vegan Recipes

Well, we got a request for some good, vegan recipes.  I’ve been cooking quite a bit recently, and I got to try out some new-to-us meals.  A few of them were not so good (samosa salad, bleh) and a couple were keepers (butternut squash quesadillas, yum).  I don’t like using a lot of pots and pans, so these are post-dinner-cleanup friendly, too.

  v  Butternut Squash Quesadillas (about 470 calories per quesadilla)
These are incredible.  They do require one thing non/new vegans may not be used to: fake cheese.  Daiya makes the BEST.  I use the cheddar style shreds, and they melt like a dream.  *For those of you concerned about soy, it is a tapioca base.
o   1 Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into small cubes (think the size of cheese cubes)
o   Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds (how much depends on how cheesy you like your quesadillas)
o   1 Can of Black Beans, rinsed
o   Tortillas (we use whole wheat)
o   Oil of your choice (we use avocado, but olive or canola is fine)
o   Pinch of salt
o   Pinch of pepper
o   Pinch of chili powder (these are obviously exact measurements)
o   Optional: some kind of green.  Fresh spinach or kale works.
1.      Heat up the oil in a big skillet.
2.      Throw in the squash, sprinkle salt, pepper, and chili powder, and toss it around to coat.
3.      Cook, stirring/flipping occasionally, until squash is tender. It takes a little while, but stove top is faster than the oven version. (If you want to throw in a green, throw in when the squash is almost done.  Greens wilt pretty fast in my experience.)
4.      Dump the cooked squash into a bowl.  Dump in your rinsed black beans and mix.
5.      Wipe out the skillet with a couple paper towels (DON’T BURN YOURSELF!!!)
6.      Slap a tortilla in the skillet, and pile in the squash/bean mixture and “cheese”.
7.      Cover with another tortilla, and squish it down.
8.      Flip when you think it’s ready (not rocket science.  Cheese melty=flip!)
9.      Slice and eat!  We like to dip ours in salsa.

  v  Vegan Stew (about 420 calories per bowl)
This is the best on a cold day, something we have no shortage of here in Illinois! This one has a meat substitute, but I don’t think of it as “fake meat”.  It’s more of a grain cake that’s packed with protein! Fair warning: it does NOT have the same texture as meat.
o   1 Package tempeh, cubed (as big as you want)
o   1 Sweet potato, peeled and cubed
o   ½ cup lentils, rinsed
o   4 carrots, sliced in discs
o   1 Carton vegetable stock (low-sodium)
o   2 tablespoon flour (I can’t even pretend to know the differences in flours.  Use what you’ve got.)
o   Splash of almond milk (original, unsweetened)
o   ½ onion, diced
o   2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
o   Olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your pot)
o   Mrs. Dash Italian Blend (or whatever herbs/spices you like in a stew)
    1.      Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
    2.      Dump in the onions.
    3.      Wait a few minutes, and dump in the garlic.
    4.      When you smell the garlic, throw in the tempeh and carrots.
    5.      Stir everything for a minute, just to get some flavor on the tempeh.
    6.      Sprinkle in flour, and stir to coat everything in the pot.
    7.      Add the almond milk, enough to wet everything, and to scrape up some of the goodness on the bottom of the pot. The milk is also good to eliminate some of the lumps the flour can leave in the final dish.
    8.      Pour in the entire carton of vegetable stock.
    9.      Add sweet potatoes, lentils, and seasonings. (All ingredients should be covered in stock/almond milk)
  10.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer until it’s reduced to a consistency you like. I like a really thick stew, so I let it go for quite a while (about 40-50 minutes).
  11.   Ladle into a bowl and eat!

I also want to include some premade meals that are a lifesaver for me.  Amy’s Low-Sodium Lentil Soup is AMAZING!!!! I eat it for lunch almost every day.  I can pop in in the microwave, and 90 seconds later I’m ready to eat.  That’s vital when you have a ½ hour lunch.  Amy’s has a ton of soups, and they are clearly marked if they are vegan.  I get mine from Kroger, in the natural foods section.  It’s usually on sale for about $2.50.  That may seem like a lot for a can of soup, but it’s better than running to the nearest fast food chain!  It also keeps me full until dinner (no small feat). 

Have I said enough about how much I LOVE Daiya “cheese” products?  They have shreds, slices, and blocks.  I love making grilled cheese with the slices.  Even Tutu likes it, so it can’t be all bad.  It’s not exactly like real cheese, but it’s the second best thing I’ve found so far.

We love Mexican food, so a taco meat substitute was necessary.  Fantastic Foods has a taco mix that is super simple.  It’s dry, so you just boil some water, dump in the mix, and boom!  Taco meat!  We stir in cheddar style shreds and put it over chips for some nachos.  It takes about 5 minutes from start to eating.  The sky is the limit with nachos.  Pour on some salsa and sliced avocado (or guac… my mouth is watering!), sliced jalapeños, shredded lettuce, cilantro, and you’ve got loaded nachos! 

I hope this helps all of you that either want to go fully plant-based, or just want to lay off the meat a little.  Enjoy!  Vegans: Do you have any quick recipes that are a go-to on busy nights?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Living Differently

I’ve always liked being a little different; just a little to the left of the norm.  The goal wasn’t to be super weird (though I’m sure I’ve come off that way to some).  I think we have officially ventured into the world of the truly weird.  We’re vegan (weird), we don’t own a home (weird for our income and family situation), and we live below our means (definitely weird for millennials).  That sounds like the makings of the world’s most boring reality show!  The only way you get a show with those criteria is if you also have approximately one thousand children. No thank you.

We’ve almost gone a solid week on the vegan train!  These are the good days.  I haven’t really had time to crave all the things I no longer let myself eat.  To be successful at a plant-based diet, I have to turn around the usual logic: I don’t think about all the food I can’t eat, instead I think about all the food I can eat.  That sounds so cheesy (cheezy?) and straight out of an upbeat diet book, but it works for me. Another strategy I use is getting into a good, solid rhythm of meals.  I have to build a habit or an anti-addiction.  I like to think I’m adaptable, but I’m good at getting in a rut.  Is there a positive word for rut? A moat?  We’ll say a groove.  I need to get in my vegan groove, and after I don’t have to think as much about eating.  I read that it takes 21 times to make something a habit.  Only 15 more days…

People always asked (Zach and I were vegan for a little over a year right before and after we got married), “Isn’t it hard?” It’s not.  So many more options are at the regular grocery store than you’ve ever noticed.  Do I miss ice cream?  No.  I can get a coconut-milk based, turtle ice cream that is out-of-this-world good.  Cheese?  Okay, yes.  I miss it almost daily.  I’d love to take a big bite out of a block of sharp cheddar a la Schmidt in season 3 of New Girl, but I don’t need it.

That is my main goal for 2015: sifting out the wants from the needs.  I majorly lack discipline, and this is the year I’m going to get it.  It was different when Zach and I got married.  I knew it wasn’t just me anymore, but I’m really good at convincing him to go my way.  He says manipulate.  He’s dramatic.  But now?  I can’t convince Tu to not go to college because I want a house.  That’s not fair to her.  It’s especially not fair because she has zero say in the matter right now.  So, no more Target runs for fun, no more eating at restaurants, no more Sunday afternoon mall visits.  We are hunkering down in our 700 square feet of apartment, with our vegan cheese, and getting out of debt!  Who’s with us?!

Zach here,

Passionate and dramatic are regularly confused for the other.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It’s the Most Spend-er-ful Time of the Year!

We hope you and yours had a fabulous holiday season!!! Read on to find out what we learned this year.

For the past couple months, I’ve been spending money like it’s my job: boots, baby stuff, Christmas presents, a car…obviously that last one is the kicker.  I had a not-so-safe vehicle situation.  My lovely Pontiac G6 had a recall because the brake lights decided every day was opposite day: they were on unless I pushed on the break.  With Tutu in the back, I didn’t feel safe driving that car.  Why not get it fixed? Well, I tried once before the recall (naturally it wasn’t doing it consistently then), and the recall announcement informed us that they didn’t have the parts to fix it yet.  Got to love GM.  I apologize if you or someone you know works for GM.  I’m bitter.

One Friday night this fall, Mama, Tutu, and I went to the car lot.  Mama is very experienced in the area of buying cars.  She’s my representative at the dealership.  Tutu is cute and hilarious.  Together they make a formidable team.  I hate buying cars.  I like having a new car, but I don’t like what you have to go through to get it.  Anyway, I have almost no tips on how to get a good deal once you’re there. 

Before you go, it’s super important to do your research.  I ended up knowing more about the inventory that the sales person we were working with.  Know about the cars you’re interested in (most lots have the inventory online), get the Kelly Blue Book and NADA values of the new car(s) and your trade-in, and be ready to argue.   

I am the new owner of a Mitsubishi Outlander.  I love it.  Did I need it? Probably not.  Are we even further in debt? Definitely.  Now it’s time to put our noses to the grindstone and pay off a bunch of money.

2015 is the year of living WAAAAAAY below our means.  Here’s the plan: we are going to do our best to live on my income and put all of Zach’s toward debt.  If I did the math right (good chance I didn’t, but I really think I did), we can do it.  As soon as we get a Z paycheck, I’ll immediately transfer it to a designated savings account (we named it “Debt”).  When I make a debt payment, I’ll transfer the money and immediately pay the bill.  It’ll be like the money was never in our checking account. 

We’re considering getting a separate checking account that doesn’t have a debit card.  We do all our banking online, so it’s not really necessary.  Speaking of debit cards, I’m going to start leaving mine at home.  I’m going to use cash for as much as I can.

Tip: watch this Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey’s daughter) vlog for a way to keep a cute wallet and still do the envelope system: I’m going to do that.  Instead of just hoping to stick to my budget, I’m going to withdraw the cash at the beginning of the month in the categories I typically overspend: groceries, eating out, and personal money.  Those are the instances that I usually just swipe the debit card. Gas will still be a debit card situation.  With winter in full swing around here, there’s no way I’m spending any more time outside than I have to!

How much have we been eating out lately?  I would guess about half of our meals in the past few months have not been at home.  Well, we might have eaten them at home, but they sure weren’t made at home! January 1 means no more eating out (or very very little) and switching back to a strict, vegan diet.  Zach and I are big fans of the Skinny Bitch/Bastard series.  We have three of the books and two cookbooks.  No more excuses.  It’s time to get skinny/fit! (Zach hates the word “skinny”.)

I know this is all super cliché.  No one makes plans to change for the better in a new year! I wonder how many products exist pertaining to New Year’s resolutions.  Probably millions.  We’re hoping to stick to ours not just for the new year, but for the rest of our lives.  Here’s to New Life Resolutions! 

Happy New Year!

The Steins

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Where Have You Been?!

Is it December already??? So much has happened in the past three months!  We moved, Tutu turned 1 (!), Zach got a new job, I’ve fallen into a major spending pit…  We’ll talk more about that later.

On today’s agenda: we moved!  I can’t believe all the money it is saving us.  I didn’t realize all the extra bills that come along with renting a house (in our experience): water, sewer, garbage, recycling, and probably more I can’t think of right now.  Those are just the bills!  We've already been able to pay off our two smallest loans and are halfway to paying off our third!  Zach no longer has to shovel or mow, and I no longer have to feel bad that I didn’t landscape!  I hated staring at the overgrown plants, but not enough to do something about it.  I hate gardening.  We also have to clean less since our space is smaller. 

Let’s talk about that. Our space is much smaller.  The house we were renting had 4 bedrooms and a formal dining room.  To me, formal dining room equals a good sized space.  We only used two of the bedrooms.  We had a guest room and office upstairs, but they ended up being more of catch-all rooms.  We managed to get rid of A LOT of stuff.  We had to make 4 bedrooms of stuff fit in a 2 bedroom apartment. Did I mention that this apartment has 1 storage closet (slightly bigger than a typical coat closet) and 1 linen closet?  Yeah.  It’s tight.  How did we do it?  Well, we sold some stuff, but mostly we gave it away.  We posted some furniture via the blog and managed to sell almost all of it within a week.  The remainders were sold via Craigslist.  That was a good little chunk of change in the ‘ole pocketbook.  I tried taking some clothes to the consignment shop, but they rejected most of it (they’re really picky; some of it was wrinkled. Seriously.).  I made a rule that once it left the house it didn’t come back in, ever.  It all lived in my car until we took everything to the Salvation Army. 

We sold some of Tu’s stuff in the garage sale (not much), and took the rest to our local Crisis Nursery.  They do great work for mothers in need.  It makes me smile knowing the stuff we donated is making the caretakers’ lives just a little easier.  The toys might also be putting some smiles on tiny faces.  Once I packed her room and realized how much I missed while sifting through for the garage sale, we had another good sized lot to take over to the nursery.  Next we’re taking her bottles and leftover formula.  My baby is a toddler!

Mama and I (with a little help from my friend Liz) ended up painting every room in the apartment.  The existing wall color was a little too close to the color of skin, and one wall (an accent wall, I guess) in Tu’s room was hunter green. That took a good two weekends of work.  You notice every single wall and trim issue while you’re doing that.  Let’s just say the previous tenants were not as precise painters as Mama and me.  I might be painting the trim come spring.  

That is just one of many apartment projects on my list.  I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew. My goal with this place is to really make it feel like home.  We have every intention of staying here until all our debt is paid.  I don’t want to move again unless it’s a house that we own.  I have a theory: if I put a lot of work into our apartment, I’ll want to stay longer.  I’ve moved at least every year since I was 17.  I get the 1 year itch for some change.  I’ll just have to find said change elsewhere; new curtains maybe.  Here is my current project list:
Make mason jar storage for bathroom.
Put up wallpaper as pseudo-backsplash in kitchen.
 Paint side table for living room.
Paint bistro table and stools?
Hang curtain rods and curtains in bedrooms.
 Paint dresser.
 Finish gallery wall in living room.
Frame chalkboard on living room wall.
Paint island/refinish top.
Re-organize kitchen cabinets.
Figure out a pantry?
Put hardware on cabinets?
Paint doors and trim
Spray paint door knobs.
Hang light in living room attached routed switch.

I might be insane. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!  Will she get any of these done??? 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Have Baby, Will Travel

When my grandma and aunt offered to pay for Zach, Turner, and my flight to visit in Florida, I was instantly excited.  I saw nothing stopping me from saying, “YES!”  Zach was a little more hesitant.  He was understandably worried about traveling with a 9 month old.  I found that with a good amount of planning, we had a successful trip!  It’s exhausting to travel with a baby, but seeing her face when she sat on the beach for the first time made it so worth it.
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My number one fear was of Tu having a meltdown on the plane because of her ears popping.  I’m a very nervous flier, add my baby screaming, and I might have had a meltdown too.  Luckily, Tu’s very favorite activity is meeting new people.  That kept her more than occupied for the flights (we were also lucky to have direct flights each way).    If her ears were popping, she didn’t notice.  Trust me, I didn’t just hope for the best.  I made plans.  
  • We brought enough formula for 3 bottles.  She typically eats every 4 hours or so, and it was a 2 hour flight.  I think we were covered.  I planned on her having two small bottles during takeoff and landing to avoid the ear popping.  I gave her the first bottle on the way up, and she was asleep on the way down (and didn’t wake up until we were leaving the plane).  WIN!  I used the same plan on the way home, and I am happy to say she never acted like her ears were bothering her.
  • I downloaded some shows on my phone.  She’s obsessed with The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  I had a couple of those ready to go.  
  • We had different toys/books in the diaper bag.  It turned out that her favorite toy was the key decoration on my purse.  
  • We made goodie bags for the passengers around us.  They included two fun sized candy bars, gum, and ear plugs.  Everyone around us really liked it, and one woman even said she should give hers back since Tu was so good.  
  • I made sure we had Ziploc baggies in the diaper bag in case of a stinky diaper (yeah, that happened).  
  • We packed plenty of snacks.  
Tutu watched all of about 3 minutes of Mickey Mouse, and spent the rest of the time smiling and talking to the people around us.  
Once we landed (huge relief), the car seat battle began.  I have never been so thankful for our car seat bases.  Every time we left the house, I had to buckle in that car seat.  I feel bad for the parents of the pre-base days.  I bet they built up some killer back muscles.  All-in-all, that was the worst part of traveling with a baby.  
Since we went from the Central to Eastern time zones, we opted to not change Tu’s schedule.  It was only an hour ahead, so that meant she went to bed later and slept later.  Okay by us!  She usually goes to bed around 8:30 or 9, and I get her up at 6 every morning.  She’s a pretty good sleeper, so the scenery change didn’t disrupt her much.  She would get restless in the early morning, so we’d just put her in bed with us.  She’d sleep a few more hours and wake up smiling.  I think the issue was the bed we got for her.  It was a tiny, pop-up tent.  There was a pad that snapped on the outside of the bottom (no suffocation hazard), but it wasn’t very thick.  She was basically sleeping on the floor.  I had to make it up to her with mama-snuggles.  (I know that’s not the best thing to do, and trust me, I’m a very nervous mother.  She’s a pretty big girl, so I wasn’t really worried about rolling over on her.  I was mostly awake, anyway.)
We stayed at my grandma’s  house, and that was a huge plus.  We were able to spread out, and I was able to execute my BEST TIP: Order supplies ahead of time, and have them shipped to the place you’re staying.  Wow, this saved so much luggage space!  We shipped diapers and wipes (The Honest Company, where we usually get that stuff), formula (Target), baby wash and lotion (Target), and sunscreen (Target).  Instead of rushing out to Target as soon as we got there, we were able to relax.  We also avoided forgetting anything, or risking the Sarasota Target not having something.  (No joke, we bought the very last canister of soy formula last Saturday at our Target, so, it’s possible.)  This is definitely my numero uno suggestion!
Do you have any baby-travel-tips you absolutely can’t live without?  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Moving Sale!!!

Tara and I have been able to cut $150 in expenses by switching internet providers and cell phone carriers!  We stumbled into another banging deal with a 2 bedroom apartment for $550/month only 5 minutes from our current house, allowing us to cut another $150 in expenses.  We will have $300/month to put towards debt, not including the money we will save as garbage and water are included in utilities.  Unfortunately, we are downsizing and need to get rid of some big items in the next few weeks.  Help a brother out!

First up, a Queen size bed frame for $150 (with or without the box spring/mattress).

Next, a tall and solid 5 drawer wood dresser/family heirloom for $80.

Anyone need a big black fridge?  Only about 3 years old and in great condition!  $600.

Freezer Drawer
Fridge Door

Up next, a round of a few smaller items including a new computer chair, a vintage armchair, and weight bench.  $35 each.

We have a gas stove available for $250.

Tara has been using this armoire/entertainment center for her salon stash.  This solid, wood piece has a pull out rotating shelf with a power source in the cabinet.  $50.

Lastly, we have a solid oak 6' X 3' desk and a bookshelf handcrafted by an experienced carpenter.  $40 each.

 We will be selling many of the books seen on the shelf, men's clothes (Large & Extra Large), women's clothes, and a TON of baby goods including clothes, toys, and other miscellaneous objects.  If you are interested in any of these please contact us via FB, text, or email.  We are willing to negotiate prices or even sell multiple items.  Here's to getting out of debt and changing our family tree!

UPDATE:  We have sold the bed, dresser, refrigerator, stove, desk, desk chair.  We still have a bookshelf, weight bench, and vintage floral arm chair available.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Doin’ It Up in Flo-Rida!

Usually the debt snowball does NOT leave room for a vacation.  It definitely doesn’t leave room for a vacation to Florida when you live in Central Illinois.  We are lucky enough that my grandma and aunt REALLY wanted to see Turner.  They offered to pay for our flight, and put us up in Grandma’s guest room.  We cannot explain how grateful we are for their generosity!​

Even though the big expenditures were taken care of, we didn’t want to completely blow our budget.  We used the money we made from the garage sale and the money from me doing two clients’ hair as our spending money.  While this money could have gone toward debt, my grandma can no longer come to visit and her seeing the baby seems more important.​

The benefit to staying in a house is not having to eat out for every single meal.  While I have zero problems with doing that, it’s not exactly wallet friendly.  Grandma was so worried about what we were going to eat, she actually went to the store before we got there and bought vegetarian-friendly stuff. What we would’ve done is used our usual weekly grocery budget and gone on a grocery run.  She was also pretty adamant about paying for our meals when we did eat out.  We did pay for her a couple times as a thank you.  I think feeding people is her love language.

So, obviously having all of our food paid for cut the spending down significantly.  But you don’t just sit in the house and eat when you’re on vaca!  We were 15 minutes away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: Siesta Key Beach (look it up!).  Hello, free beach!  We even got an amazing parking spot (Zach and I always seem to get amazing parking.  I can’t explain it.).  We probably could have gone to the beach every day and been happy, but we’ll save that for another trip.  (Side note: it seems we have a daughter that tans!  This pale girl’s dream has come true!)  We took sandwiches and a cooler with water for lunch, so we didn’t have to spend more.  Tu got lunch right before we left, so she was good to go with just a bottle while we were lying in the sand.  It was a great day, except Zach’s foot was SUPER burnt when we got home.  We still can’t figure out how only his left foot burned.

The day after beach day was Turner’s first Fourth of July!  My Aunt Crystal has a gorgeous screened in porch (called a lanai in Florida) complete with a pool and grill.  We got to hang out in the pool all afternoon and eat some delicious (veggie) burgers.  We ventured downtown to Sarasota Bay to watch the fireworks after.  Did I mention all of this was free to us?!  We got great parking again, but it was rigged.  My uncle’s friend has a gallery downtown and let us use his parking spot.   He has connections.

Saturday was the day that broke the bank.  A trip to Florida always includes at least one shopping day.  First we went to lunch (I paid for Grandma and myself), then we got down to business.  We do not have the pleasure of a Nordstrom Rack back home, and I may have gotten a little carried away.  Zach and I agreed on a budget before Turner and I left (this was a girls only trip so he drove around in my aunt's new BMW).  In my defense, I did come in about $50 under budget.  In hindsight, the budget was too high to begin with.  I haven’t really purchased new clothes in a long time.  Most of my summer clothes are either maternity or were purchased when I was in college (we’re talking 7-9 years ago).   However, no matter how badly I wanted the clothes, they were not a need.  I have some buyer’s remorse, but not enough to return anything. #sorrynotsorry 

Sunday was a low cost day thanks to Aunt Crystal paying for our activity.  We visited the Ringling Museum, Circus Museum, and Ca’ta Zan (“House of John” in Venetian dialect).  I cannot tell you how amazing this place is.  It’s a little pricey to get in (tickets are $25/person, and we had a guided tour through the house, an extra $5), but it is totally worth it. I happen to have an unexpired student ID (thank you ICC!), so there was a small discount.  Florida residents can go to the art museum for free on Mondays.  The grounds are right on Sarasota Bay.  It is incredible that it was one man and wife’s estate, and only for the winter!  The first stop is the Circus Museum.  Pretty recently, they opened the mini circus model.  It is incredible.  Every single detail is there, down to the china pattern on the plates in the food tent.  I think it’s my favorite part of the entire experience.  It takes a good 20 minutes to walk completely around the model.  It depicts a circus coming to town when they still put up the tent and traveled by train (think Dumbo).  The rest of the Circus Museum is a timeline (very interesting) and various, interactive displays.  I successfully walked the “tight rope” (a rail mounted to the ground the same width, anyway).  The Old Circus Museum houses the actual train car that John and Mabel Ringling traveled on with the circus.  It is lux.  It’s all gold-leafed ceilings and exotic wood furniture.  You can walk right up and look in the windows.

The next stop was John Ringlings house.  It is Moorish themed, and unlike any house I’ve ever seen.  The original budget in the 1920s was $250,000.  They spent $1.5 million.  After hearing that, I didn’t feel so bad about my shopping spree the day before.  Zach and I are both history buffs, so the guided tour was right up our alley.  We definitely endorse it.  I won’t say anymore in case you decide to visit.

The Ringling Museum holds John Ringling’s enormous art collection.  We didn’t spend a ton of time there because it was close to closing time.  I guess we’ll have to go back!  Tu enjoyed the Rubens.

On Monday, Zach, Turner, Grandma, Aunt Crystal, and I went to an amazing seaside restaurant on St. Armand’s Key.  We were literally sitting over the water.  While it was blazing hot everywhere else, the breeze off the water kept us cool and comfortable.  This was a fries in a basket kind of place, so pretty affordable.  The food was great, but the atmosphere was even better.

After, we took a stroll to some shops at St. Armand’s Circle.  There are some chain stores, but a good number of the stores there are locally owned.  Aunt Crystal and Grandma made friends with the people at The Giving Tree (a jewelry and art gallery).  I got a gorgeous bracelet (courtesy of the ladies) and necklace (from my hubby).  We also got souvenirs for our families at a shop on the circle.  

It was a great trip.  I’ll write another post about traveling with a baby.  That’s a post unto itself.
Things we wish we would’ve done differently:
1. Set a smaller budget for shopping.
2. Put on sunscreen more thoroughly.  (Zach and I were the only victims of this.)
3. I think that’s it! 
Any vacationing on a tight budget tips?